Colombo: Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has called on the citizens of the country to temporarily halt travel, public gatherings or celebrations as this would enable the government to completely control the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, the President’s office said in a statement on Wednesday. Also Read - Sri Lanka Suspends All Incoming International Flights Amid Coronavirus Fears

With Sri Lanka recording 43 COVID-19 patients, Rajapaksa said a large number of Sri Lankans had returned to the country in recent days from virus-hit nations including Italy and authorities had identified all of them as well as their closest relatives and had asked them to be self quarantined in their own homes.



“We have deployed the police, the tri-forces, public health inspectors and local government officers for this purpose and I request that they be given the fullest cooperation,” the President was quoted by local media as saying on Wednesday.

He called on all Sri Lankans who had returned from overseas recently to act responsibly and explained that the government had declared a four-day public holiday to minimise the spread of the virus.



“At this moment, we must minimise all possibilities of this virus from entering and spreading across the country. We have already identified what needs to be done and have put these into action. We have empowered the Task Force accordingly,” Rajapaksa said.

“We have faced and won over challenges before. We are ready to face the challenges. What we need is unity. Therefore, I ask from the people to act with responsibility,” he added.

With businesses hampered due to the outbreak of the pandemic, President Rajapaksa also unveiled relief packages such as offering lentils and canned fish at subsidized rates, and ordered banks and finance companies to allow a recovery period of six months for the loan facilities taken by businesses. “We are in the process of planning more relief to the public,” the President said.